You wouldn’t leave the house without putting on a shirt, so why not make it Intel’s fashionable new “smart” shirt “wearable?” That seems to be the company’s daring new approach. Rather than forcing consumers to adorn their wrist or face with a plastic accessory—a watch, a bracelet, glasses—Intel wants to simplify this add-on nightmare by introducing a “smart” t-shirt—one embedded with all the usual wearable sensors.
Speaking to Re/code, Intel’s Head of New Devices, Mike Bell, discussed the possibilities of a “smart” shirt, and its advantages compared to what we typically think of as a wearable. Expected to launch later this summer, Bell said its new “wearable” t-shirt is capable of tracking a user’s heart rate with no additional accessories—that’s mighty handy for someone on a bike ride or a run.
The shirt itself is made of conductive smart fibers, and when plugged into a small flip-phone-size box (equipped with Intel’s wearable-specific chips) the shirt can accurately track your every step and other important biometrics. It’s not quite like throwing on a simple cotton white T, but it’s a neat alternative to having to wear an additional accessory. Not everyone wants to wear a watch or face computer—but you are (probably) always wearing a shirt.
Bell said the platform and software have already been built, so it’s just a matter of other developers taking the idea and running with it. Imagine an entire middle school gym class all wearing a “smart” t-shirt. And it’s not just for exercise purposes, either; Bell says it could be used for medical reasons, possibly worn by someone who needs to be monitored on a 24/7 basis.
Based on the wearables we’ve seen over the past few years, the idea of a “smart” t-shirt sounds rather crude, and certainly not very futuristic. But imagine if, one day, your plain Hanes T could monitor your heart rate or track other vital biometrics. I’ll take that over having to wear a rash-inducing wrist accessory any day.